After some deliberation last summer I decided I’d out myself as a writer. The little fella was starting school in September, which meant a whole host of new people to greet and avoid five days a week (I’m not known for my sociability) and the inevitable question, repeated thirty-odd times:
“What do you do?”
What do I do?
I briefly considered owning up to not having paid employment of any kind and leave it at that, but even I found that troubling. We’ve all drunk Thatcher’s Kool-Aid and it’s not the done thing to be doing nothing “productive”. And even if it’s not obvious my mind always felt busy, and my vanity couldn’t bear the idea of people thinking that I wandered around without a thought in my head. “Look! I’m smart! I have ideas and stuff! Some of the time anyway. And I have degrees and things! I’m not vacant!”
(There’s a part of me that’s seeking the approval of Each and Every Single Person on the Planet.)
So I made the decision that when people asked what I did I would simply and baldly say, “I’m writing.” Variations I would deliberately avoid were: “I’m trying to write”, “I’m kind of writing”, “I write a little bit”. You know, the sort of downplaying, undermining, apologetic sorts of things. Instead, a plain and simple, “I’m writing.” And if they asked I’d tell them briefly that it was fiction and leave it at that. No need to elaborate, but at least I was saying what I felt to be true.
Now of course, a few months on, people ask, “how’s the book?”
But I’ve decided to answer just as baldly.
All that legal nonsense with the house, and the moving… But I’ve unpacked the books now, so…”
And I have. I even found my notebook. And I am back to staring at the blank page, at my old desk in front of a different window. It’s a struggle to find the confidence in my voice again. Yet again.
I’ve had a number of times when I lost my way to the desk for a while. Some people never lose their way, and if asked they’d probably just be bemused that you could possibly stop writing. What could possibly get in the way?
Too many things to enumerate.
You can get caught up in trying to pin it down, and categorise it, and loudly proclaim that next time the Stuff will not waylay you, because you will plan and be aware.
But I think that either you’re a person who gets lost on the way to the desk sometimes, or you’re not. Why? Just because. It can be personality, or upbringing, or experience, or any combination of those things. In my case, it’s probably nothing several years of expensive therapy wouldn’t fix. I don’t have time or money for that, so I just go on with losing my way for little bit.
Is it fun? No, of course not. The feelings that you both want and ought to be writing something eat at you constantly, making you miserable and to be honest a bit more weird than normal. The barrier to actually doing some writing is like an enormous black spider sitting on your head at all times, with its legs dangling over your face. You can’t quite see it, you’re not even totally sure what it is, but you’re afraid that if you try to move it Something Dreadful will happen.
Here’s my only advice, if you are one of those people who loses their way: Wait It Out.